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Warning: Spoilers for Doona! ahead. Bae Su-ji (better known as Bae Suzy, or eponymously) is the perfect person to play Doo-na, the enigmatic former K-pop star at the center of Netflix’s latest series, Doona! After all, she’s a former idol herself, who rose to superstardom in 2010 as a member of the JYP Entertainment girl group Miss A and then began her career as an actress just one year after her debut.
At the start of the new romance drama—directed by Crash Landing on You’s Lee Jung-hyo and based on Min Song-ah’s webtoon The Girl Downstairs—Doo-na has just left the popular group Dream Sweet, under mysterious circumstances. As she’s navigating her now-aimless days and the residual trauma from her departure in the industry, she meets Won-jun (played by Yang Se-jong), an ordinary college student with whom she falls into an intense love affair. Suzy gives a dazzling performance in the nine-episode show, informed by her own experience as an entertainer which gave her deep empathy for the character. “She’s“someone I want to reach out and give a hug.”
Here, Suzy (via a translator) chats about why she was drawn to the role of Doo-na, her most memorable experiences from set, and the scenes that still make her tear up.
Marie Claire: What first drew you to the script and the character of Doo-na?
BS: The script itself was really enough to make my heart flutter, but especially so when I saw the character Doo-na. I really felt for her. The way she holds a great deal of loneliness and a lot of hurt. Even though she holds all of those feelings, she doesn't know how to express them, and so she comes off as a little bit rude and a little bit 'too much.' I even found those elements of her to be very endearing, which is why I decided to be a part of the project.
In your conversations with director Lee Jung-hyo, were you able to share your personal insights into the character?
BS: Doo-na is someone who has a lot of emotional ups and downs. She's very fickle. You don't know what she's going to feel from one moment to the next. I [usually] tend to approach my characters in a way where I focus on the continuity of the emotions. However, the director told me, you really don't have to do that when it comes to this character. You don't have to think about what she was feeling immediately before. So I tried to focus on that.
I love how you previously described Doo-na’s personality as a “dog-like cat.” What about Won-jun do you feel brings out her playful, innocent side?
BS: I think no matter how mean Doo-na may be to Won-jun, and no matter how she sort of approaches him with all the claws out, it seems like Won-jun sees her in a different light. He doesn't focus too much on the overtly-expressed emotions. Once Won-jun comes to her and embraces all of that with warmth, then she kind of melts into his embrace. She is now okay without her sharp claws.
Were there any particular scenes you really enjoyed filming?
BS: The scene when Won-jun puts on the toe socks on Doo-na. First of all, toe socks are very hard to put on by yourself, and [Yang Se-jong] was being so clumsy at it, and that moment felt so Won-jun. Also my feet were very ticklish, so I was cracking up.
It's really funny how a pair of pink toe socks is kind of pivotal to the show.
BS: It's a cute detail.
As the drama goes on, we learn more about Doo-na's past and why she retired. What was your experience filming some of those heavier scenes?
BS: At the time, because I was so immersed into the character, my heart really ached a lot. Even now when I think about it, it makes me tear up a little. The way she expresses her emotions, it comes off as being all tough, but she has a hard time expressing her true feelings. Normally she would just do whatever she wants, and say whatever she wants. But at times, the way she's just unable to detect how she really feels about some things, that made my heart ache for her.
What do you want viewers to take away from the entirety of Doo-na and Won-jun's love story?
BS: I had thought that Doo-na ending up with Won-jun, whom she likes so much, would be the definition of a happy ending. However, looking back, I think there's a bit of confusion in terms of what it really means for the both of them to be happy. So this is a topic that we had many discussions about on set during production. On some days I would feel like, ‘Okay, this is probably the happy ending that we want.’ And then another day I would feel differently about that and think another ending would be more apt. It was fun for me [to debate them], but I think that a more realistic ending is the one that I lean more towards.
It's really refreshing to see a more realistic, less fairytale ending, in a K-drama.
BS: I agree.
While you were filming Doo-na, did you learn anything new about yourself as an actress? Did you discover any new strengths that you had?
BS: I think I'm quite fearless and I have felt that often before, but especially this time around I think, Yeah, I'm definitely someone who's fearless. But I will have to say the Viking ride [in episode 4]—that's something that's very scary.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.